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Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:11 AM

Why Have Americans Stopped Resisting Economic Privilege? [View all]

Why Have Americans Stopped Resisting Economic Privilege?

December 19, 2014
by Steve Fraser

The following excerpt is from the introduction to Steve Fraser’s new book, The Age of Acquiescence.

Marx once described high finance as “the Vatican of capitalism,” its diktat to be obeyed without question. Several decades have come and gone during which we’ve learned not to mention Marx in polite company. Our vocabulary went through a kind of linguistic cleansing, exiling suspect and nasty phrases like “class warfare” or “the reserve army of labor” or even something as apparently innocuous as “working class.”

In times past, however, such language and the ideas they conjured up struck our forebears as useful, even sometimes as accurate depictions of reality. They used them regularly along with words and phrases like “plutocracy,” “robber baron,” and “ruling class” to identify the sources of economic exploitation and inequality that oppressed them, as well as to describe the political disenfranchisement they suffered and the subversion of democracy they experienced. Never before, however, has the Vatican of capitalism captured quite so perfectly the specific nature of the oligarchy that recently ran the country for a long generation and ended up running it into the ground. Even political consultant and pundit James Carville (no Marxist he), confessed as much during the Clinton years, when he said the bond market “intimidates everybody.”

[font size="1"]Southern Labor Archives at Georgia State University[/font]

Occupy Wall Street, even bereft of strategy, program, and specific demands as many lamented when it was a newborn, nonetheless opened up space again for our political imagination by confronting this elemental, determining feature of our society’s predicament. It rediscovered something that, beneath thickets of political verbiage about tax this and cut that, about end‑of‑the world deficits and ­missionary-​minded “job creators,” had been hiding in plain sight: namely, what our ancestors once called “the street of torments.” It achieved a giant leap backward, so to speak, summoning up a history of opposition that had mysteriously withered away.


Gilded ages are, by definition, hiding something; what sparkles like gold is not. But what they’re hiding may differ, fundamentally. Industrial capitalism constituted the understructure of the first Gilded Age. The second rested on finance capitalism. Late-​nineteenth-​century American capitalism gave birth to the “trust” and other forms of corporate consolidation at the expense of smaller businesses. ­Late-twentieth​-​ century­ capitalism, notwithstanding its mania for mergers and acquisitions, is known for its “flexibility,” meaning its penchant for off­-loading​ corporate functions to a world of freelancers, contractors, subcontractors, and numberless petty enterprises. The first Gilded Age, despite its glaring inequities, was accompanied by a gradual rise in the standard of living; the second by a gradual erosion. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://billmoyers.com/content/steve-fraser-age-acquiescence/

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Reply Why Have Americans Stopped Resisting Economic Privilege? [View all]
marmar Dec 2014 OP
fredamae Dec 2014 #1
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world wide wally Dec 2014 #3
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Prophet 451 Dec 2014 #7
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